Lincoln Logs have been around for almost 100 years, and they’ve been a staple of toy boxes around the world. The inventor of Lincoln Logs even had a connection to a famous architect. In fact, they were related.
The famous architect in question was none other than Frank Lloyd Wright, the man who designed such iconic structures as Falling Water in Pennsylvania and the Guggenheim Museum. But there was another Wright that came up with the idea for Lincoln Logs–John Lloyd Wright, the architect’s second son.
John Lloyd was also an architect, and he worked with his father on the design of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in 1913 at the age of 24. But due to a disagreement over his salary, Frank Lloyd fired his son. After being let go, John Lloyd began making wooden toys in 1916. He made wooden, interlocking pieces from redwood that were based on the earthquake-proof design of the Imperial Hotel he and his father had worked on in Tokyo. The real building used interlocking timber beams that allowed the building to sway and protected it from damage during an earthquake.
He called his wooden toy timbers Lincoln Logs since they could be used to construct a replica of the famous log cabin Abraham Lincoln grew up in, but there is a theory that he could have named it after his father’s given name of Frank Lincoln Wright. Frank later took part of his wife’s last name when they married, which was Lloyd Jones.
John Lloyd formed a toy business called Red Square Toy Company in 1918, and two years later, he patented the design for Lincoln Logs in 1920. The original instructions for Lincoln Logs showed a young builder how to make the cabin Lincoln grew up in and even showed how to build Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The sets also came with a picture of Abraham Lincoln. John Lloyd developed another wooden building system called Wright Blocks in the 1930s that could make even more intricate structures, but these never took off in popularity like Lincoln Logs.
In 1943, John Lloyd Wright sold his toy company to Playskool for the low price of $800. Lincoln Logs caught a wave of popularity in the 1950s with the Davy Crockett craze, and Wright missed out on their popularity explosion. The copyright for Lincoln Logs eventually moved to Milton Bradley and Hasbro, and in 1991, the rights for Lincoln Logs were bought by the K’NEX company, which produces the sets today.